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University of Dayton alumni couple donate $5 million to support student scholarships, undergraduate research

University of Dayton alumni Margie and Bill Klesse have donated $5 million to fund scholarships and research opportunities in science and engineering for high-achieving students with financial need.

Their gift will establish the Margie and Bill Klesse Scholars Program, which will support undergraduate scholarships, and the Margie and Bill Klesse Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowships, which will fund experiential learning opportunities. Both programs will give preference to students majoring in chemistry or chemical engineering, the academic degrees the Klesses pursued while attending UD in the mid-1960s. 

"It's a forward-thinking gift that supports our vision of creating more robust scholarship programs and deeper, hands-on learning experiences," said University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina. "The Klesses' generous commitment will help us attract talented, intellectually curious students, no matter their ZIP code or family's income level to fields of study that will make America more innovative and competitive." 

Margie Klesse, a 1968 chemistry graduate, and Bill Klesse, who earned a chemical engineering degree later the same year, both worked in science and engineering. Bill Klesse spent his 45-year career at Valero Energy Corp. and its predecessor companies, retiring as CEO and chairman of the board in 2014. 

The couple said they understand the importance of financial aid and paid research opportunities because of their own financial challenges paying for college. Both came from families of eight children and said they pursued majors in science and engineering to have a better chance of landing jobs after graduation. 

When Margie Klesse's father died during her freshman year, a Marianist brother helped her obtain a job on campus in a research lab to defray expenses. Bill Klesse, a New Jersey native, remembers saving money from delivering newspapers and working in a grocery store during high school to pay for his UD tuition. When his savings ran out, he got a loan from his future wife to finish his studies.

"We are very committed to the sciences in education," Bill Klesse said. "We want to help students by offering financial aid and making it more economical to attend a university where they'll get a great education.

"The sciences are the future. The breakthroughs that have happened in our lifetime are unbelievable, and we're trying to give young people the opportunity to explore." 

They want more University of Dayton students to have that opportunity as well. The couple returned to the city and campus for the first time in 47 years for the dedication of the soccer complex in 2015, and want to continue to give back to the school that helped them succeed when they faced financial need. 

"The opportunity at UD is going to be very valuable to students," Margie Klesse said. "We're just glad to be able to make some of that possible."

For more information or interviews, contact Shannon Miller, associate director of news and communications, at 937-229-3258 or smiller6@udayton.edu. 


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